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Electric Point of Use Water Heaters - Possible Installation Problems


Installing a point of use water heater is often a big problem because there is not much power in the bathroom, usually only by code a 15A circuit somewhere near the wash basin. To get it down to below the sink is usually a challenge, you typically have tiles or granite or some other material in the way.


Let's say we manage to get the power under the sink, then we have maximum of 15Aamps, which is not much.   A small point of use heater takes about 1,500 Watts, so around 12.5 Amps. There isn't much left over for a hair dryer for example, which is also around 1500 Watts.


The point-of-use heater actually has a little 2.5 to 4 gallon tank that it heats up; it can't heat any real volume of water quickly with only 1,500 watts.

For quickly heating water we would need at least 40Amps or more. The cost of heating the water can also go up very quickly.


  Our area has a tiered electricity rate system, it starts at 12 cents per kw/h and goes quickly to 50c per kw/h. Part of the problem is also that we have only 110Volts available, the rest of the world that runs on 230 volts has it easier because they can deliver more amperage with the same wire.

A typical house has a 100A service coming into it. It goes through the main panel and most of the time through another sub panel. In today's life style it is not nearly enough. An upgrade to 200Amp service is only usually possible if the service is overhead. In other words the power comes directly from the power pole down to the home.


 In cases where the wire is buried underground the cost can become prohibitive, sometimes requiring crossing under the street to get to the transformer to upgrade the wire from the transformer to the main panel in the house. The local utility company doesn't pay for it.


Running an extra circuit from the sub panel or main panel of the house to the bathroom can also become expensive as it can be complicated. We used to do service upgrades all the time as an electrical company. Especially when people wanted to add air conditioning and the power coming into house is not enough. The air conditioning requires about 30Amps and your cook top takes another 30Amps and pretty soon you blow the main breaker. A service upgrade from 100A to 200A runs around $ 2000, not including any air conditioning hookup.


Now, there is one place in the house that there is by code 20Amp circuit breakers that are not used much, and that is the garbage disposal in the kitchen. The garbage disposal service can be used to power small point of use heaters, but it is often against local building codes because it can overload the circuit when both are used at the same time.


We have often run into people who buy those nice luxury spas without realizing that they need a whole lot of power to operate, as much as 50Amps, ouch. Then they find out that it is very expensive to get another 50Amps they don't have.  I had a customer like that a few weeks ago and it took $2500 to get power to that the spa.



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